Throughout the book, Mama continues to silently remain a victim of Papa’s aggression which has proved to be the cause of Mama’s miscarriages. Adichie allows us to note that Mama is able to contain her emotion after enduring Papa’s aggression by polishing the delicate glass figurines and providing herself with a sort of silent therapy through it. She is the peacemaker of the family and is most willing to prevent violent outbursts and arguments. The glass figurines allow her to remain peaceful by suppressing her feelings and actions.
It is important to note that Adichie has chosen to begin the novel from the day when Mama’s glass figurines were broken by Papa. This lets us see the breaking of the figurines as a significant event and a turning point for not only Mama who would no longer be able to silently cope with the violence but for the whole family. Kambili explains how Mama would ‘no longer need the figurines’ and how ‘nothing would be the same again’. This leads us to conclude that Mama will be turning to some other measure in order to secure peace for the family.
The figurines also represent western culture which was enforced on the family by Papa, saying that Mama would no longer need them would mean that she would no longer need to be acquiescent to Papa’s strict authority and may now allow herself to take control of the situation.
Although Mama’s role may seem insignificant initially, her importance is strengthened when she takes the final step to poison Papa. Although she is most obedient to Papa and did not approach defiance like Jaja, it was she who was able to take the consequential step and actual action against Papa.
Mama’s decision to poison Papa can be seen as influenced by Aunty Ifeoma who objected to Papa’s brutality and gave Mama the idea that she could live without the stern authority of a husband like she was, explaining how ‘sometimes life begins when marriage ends’. This provides nourishment to Kambili’s analysis that her family had discovered ‘the undertones of freedom’ from Aunty Ifeoma’s household. Although Mama carried the ‘undertones’ of freedom from Aunty Ifeoma like Jaja did, Mama was actually able to act for the cause of freedom while Jaja’s attempts would prove futile.
After Papa’s death, Mama is emotionally distant and silent. Kamibili explains how Mama has been ‘different ever since Jaja was locked up’. Does she regret poisoning Papa and realize it to be a mistake? Or is she consumed by guilt for having Jaja take the blame? Kamibili also suggests that she no longer understands Mama; ‘She prefers it, I think’ which would mean Mama has changed. Not only is Mama silent, she is also deeply grieved: “The sound of my voice may stop her tears”. The title of the chapter also tells us a lot: “A different silence”. Although oppression from